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What exactly is an artisan cheese?

25/02/2016

What exactly is an artisan cheese?

I believe it’s only correct that we address this question upfront – especially as we are an artisan cheese shop.

So what exactly does artisan mean?? Well, in relation to food the definition is as follows;

artisan ˈɑːtɪzan,ɑːtɪˈzan noun “made in a traditional or non-mechanized way using high-quality ingredients.”

We now live in a world where almost everything can be found almost anywhere. Cheese can be found in every corner store and 24/7 outlet. If it sells milk, it’s likely to sell a yellow block of cheese. Now I don’t want to be too dismissive of this little yellow block. It serves a necessary purpose and many of my personal late night toastie cravings have been satisfied thanks to the corner shop’s cheese offering.

However, it’s also fair to say that this cheese is likely to be the result of a mass produced, factory generated, cost effective process rather than by the innate love of a passionate cheesemaker. No hand will have touched it and it is very likely to have a long list of ingredients.

An artisanal cheese is much the opposite. These cheeses are made by hand using the traditional craftsmanship of a skilled cheesemaker adept in the magical and historic art of turning fresh milk from their herd into a cheese. Most artisan cheeses are aged and ripened to achieve optimum taste and texture. This maturation period is dependent on the cheese type and can range from just a few days to a number of years. As they mature the cheeses are carefully tended to ensure that they slowly mature to reach their peak. Only then will they be ready to enjoy.

Gruyere d’Alpage is a great example. It is only made by a few small independent cheesemakers in the Swiss Alps and only between the months of June and September. Each wheel of cheese weighs about 35kg and they make only two cheeses per day. To make a 35kg cheese it will take about 350 litres of fresh milk from their herd of cows who graze on the lush mountainous summer pastures. Every cheese is then matured for at least 12months – but often longer. This gives the cheese a rich complexity and fruity intensity. Quite a story, I’m sure you’ll agree.

In fact almost every type of cheese has a great story to match it’s amazing taste. Here at The Artisan Cheese Room we will share the stories and tastes with you, so come on down and experience true artisan cheese for yourself.